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   Home » Consumables & Supplies » Articles » Charged Results
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Charged Results
Charged Results

 A plasma pipette tip cleaning system not only reduces lab costs and time to market but also employs complementary technology to validate accuracy and precision of results.

In life science laboratories, automation and other related technologies have been key factors in lowering costs, increasing experimental accuracy, and condensing development and discovery timelines. However, while labs are eager to adopt new technologies to further streamline operations, verifying the performance quality of these new technologies is still essential.

Cerionx Inc. has introduced a technology that enhances automated laboratory processes and provides users with a method that can easily validate the effectiveness of its own technology. Both enable reductions in automated liquid handling operating costs posed by pipette tips and lessen timelines associated with pipette tip wash protocols.

Labs employing single-use pipette tips incur high costs, considering an automated discovery lab can use thousands in a day. The consumable costs and duration of the assay continue to increase with each tip use and wash. Cerionx's tip-cleaning technology platform, the TipCharger, meets these demands by helping to streamline throughput, lower discovery costs and reduce contamination.

The TipCharger system generates an atmospheric plasma to clean and sterilize pipette tips used in automated liquid handling environments. It specifically removes organic substances, can eliminate the need for time-consuming solvent-based wash stations, and enables "disposable" polypropylene tips to perform like new after several hundred cleaning cycles. The technology increases efficiency by reducing the bottlenecks generally associated with automated liquid handling, produces quality results without contamination, and reduces environmental waste.

Trust development

To validate the TipCharger, Cerionx decided to employ the ARTEL MVS (multichannel verification system), which produces traceable accuracy and precision measurements of liquid volumes delivered from automated liquid handlers in one simple procedure.

Using the MVS, Cerionx can measure and prove the consistent accuracy and precision of volume transfer steps after tips are exposed to plasma. Important terms when referring to pipetting steps, precision refers to the closeness of a group of volumes to each other regardless of a standard, and accuracy describes the deviation among a group of volumes from a standard volume.

Traditional methods of performance testing are difficult to administer accurately, and results are difficult to compare.

Gravimetric calibration, where volume is verified by weighing liquid quantities on a balance, is time consuming and prone to environmental and manual error, especially at small volumes. Also, gravimetry is not ideal for multi-channel devices because of the time required to measure each tip. It can, however, be used to measure aggregate volumes that are dispensed simultaneously from all tips to provide an average assessment of all channels. This method artificially assumes that the tips behave identically, which is not always the case.

In fluorescence, measuring accuracy is time consuming and usually requires a standard curve to be generated with a calibrated pipette from a skilled operator.


MVS at work

The ARTEL MVS is based on proprietary ratiometric photometry, which employs a dual-dye, dual-wavelength absorbance methodology. This technology relies on two colorimetric dyes with distinct absorbance maxima at 520 nm (red) and 730 nm (blue).

The Beer-Lambert law states that when light passes through a solution containing some concentration of dye, the amount of light absorbed by the dye solution is proportional to both the concentration of dye and the pathlength of the light with the solution. If both the molar absorptivity and concentration of the dye solution are known and closely controlled, which is the case with the MVS, the law can be used to determine an unknown pathlength traversed by a photometric light beam. By measuring the pathlength through the solution and knowing the dye concentration, the unknown volume can be calculated through a series of equations.1

The absorbance per unit pathlength of the red and blue dyes—NIST-traceable information determined during ARTEL's manufacturing process—is recorded on a barcode on each reagent bottle, further reducing measurement variability and uncertainty. Barcodes on the system's microtiter plates, sample solutions and calibrator plate contain performance information that is passed to the system's software through scanning. The MVS plate reader collects photometric measurements of the dye solutions dispensed into the microtiter wells by the automated liquid handler. These measurements, together with the barcode information, are used to rapidly determine both the precision and accuracy of the volume delivered from each tip of the device being tested.


Effective results

Among its many positive results, the TipCharger saves companies the cost of replacing disposable tips after every use. Depending on the tip format and usage, eliminating the need for multiple boxes of tips on a daily basis can save labs $50,000 to more than $800,000 annually on a single liquid handling platform.

Time savings can be another clear benefit for labs that clean and reuse tips with a solvent-based solution. Washing pipette tips can take up to several minutes while the plasma-based cleaning can take as little as two seconds.

In addition, the system alters contaminants on an atomic level, removing them from the pipette tip, whereas solvent-based methods simply dilute substances and are potentially less consistent and controlled. In addition, the plasma technology removes the need for aggressive cleaning compounds that can be difficult to handle and harmful to personnel.

The long run

Immediate results in the lab can translate into long-term positive impact. However, in analysis and discovery, even small deviations in results can delay projects, lead to false conclusions, and increase time to market.

Inaccuracy or imprecision can affect entire projects and a team's decision making. In many assays using high-density plates, volume inaccuracies of less than one microliter can alter results significantly. Cerionx helps eliminate these errors by using the complementary technology, the ARTEL MVS, to validate the performance of liquid handlers after using the TipCharger.

As the biotech industries become more competitive, increasing demand for truncated development and more rapid times to market are facts of life. Technologies such as the TipCharger and MVS offer a solution that both speeds the process and improves quality.

For more information, contact Jen Sprance, a writer with ABI, at jsprance@abipr.com.



1. Bradshaw, J. T., T. Knaide, A. Rogers, and R. H. Curtis. 2005. Multichannel verification system (MVS): A dual-dye ratiometric photometry system for performance verification of multichannel liquid delivery devices. Journal of the Association for Laboratory Automation. 10: 35-42.



For additional information on the companies and technologies discussed in this article, visit:
• www.cerionx.com 
• www.artel-usa.com

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